Intervening in the Brain: Changing Psyche and Society (Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment)

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9783540464761: Intervening in the Brain: Changing Psyche and Society (Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment)
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The wealth of insights into the brain’s functioning gained by neuroscience in recent years led to the development of new possibilities for intervening in the brain such as neurotransplantation, neural prostheses and brain stimulation techniques. Moreover, new and safer classes of psychopharmaceutical drugs lend themselves to neuroenhancement applications, i.e. they could be used to enhance cognitive capacities or emotional well-being without therapeutic need. This book offers extensive state-of-the-art accounts for these novel kinds of intervention, indicates future developments, and discusses the relevant philosophical, ethical and legal issues.

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The preceding decade has witnessed tremendous progress in clinical as well as theoretical neuroscience. In its wake, powerful new instruments of neuromodulation acting directly on the brain have been developed: potent neuro-pharmaceuticals, deep brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, various methods of neurotransplantation, central neural prostheses, and others. However, few areas of scientific development seem to exhibit as close a connection between dreams of progress and nightmares of disaster as contemporary neuroscience. This Janus-faced character relates to the core function of the brain as the "organ of the mind". Methods of intervening in the brain easily draw the suspicion of possibly altering fundamental features of personhood, thus posing a threat to preconditions of human dignity and to the normative structure of our societies. This suspicion has been fuelled by the discovery that most of the newly developed neurotherapeutic instruments might also be used for purposes of enhancement of certain mental features. "Mind doping" is a populist slogan at hand, suggesting a deprecatory parallel to the practice of doping in sports.

The present book subjects the whole range of questions associated with these problems to a thorough exploration. Extensive state-of-the-art accounts of the relevant clinical and theoretical neurosciences are followed by an in-depth philosophical analysis of the problems of personal identity and a comprehensive disquisition on legal and ethical questions posed by present and foreseeable future practices of neuroenhancement. A concluding chapter presents the study’s main results as recommendations, addressing clinical practitioners and researchers in the field as well as to politicians, legislators, law courts, philosophers, lawyers, and anybody fascinated by or concerned about the dawning era of intervening in the brain.

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"Written jointly by the study group, this book provides the group’s ethical, legal, and social analyses, as well as its recommendations for preliminary guidelines and further study. ... The authors do a commendable job of reviewing analyses by other scholars and recommendations by expert panels in several other countries ... . The authors have written thoughtful and though-provoking analyses of several important issues in neuroethics that deserve careful study by clinicians, scientists, philosophers, and policy-makers." (James L. Bernat, New England Journal of Medicine, November, 2007)

"This book undertakes to examine the expected outcomes of intentional interventions in the brain. ... The clear structure of the voluminous book allows to use it as a reference book ... . The entire book gives a sober analysis of the techniques at stake; the discussion of conceptual and ethical problems is written in a clear and structured way, helping readers to form their own opinions on brain interventions which are meant to enhance human beings." (Jan-Christoph Heilinger, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, Vol. 10 (4), 2007)

"The authors undertake a comprehensive and advanced analysis of current and approaching neuro-interventions, as well as an extensive discussion of the moral and legal questions about these interventions. ... The book is directed at anyone with a background in neuroscience who is also interested in its ethical dimensions. ... The book is remarkably sophisticated both in terms of its scientific exposition and philosophical analysis, a combination that is rare." (Erica Rangel, Doody's Review Service, August, 2007)

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